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Buried in Shades of Night

Contested Voices, Indian Captivity, and the Legacy of King Philip's War

Billy J. Stratton, Foreword by Frances Washburn, Afterword by George E. Tinker

Publication Year: 2013

The captivity narrative of Mary Rowlandson, The Soveraignty and Goodness of God, published in 1682, is often considered the first “best seller” to be published in North America. Since then, it has long been read as a first-person account of the trials of Indian captivity. After an attack on the Puritan town of Lancaster, Massachusetts, in February 1676, Rowlandson was held prisoner for more than eleven weeks before eventually being ransomed. The account of her experiences, published six years later, soon took its place as an exemplar of the captivity narrative genre and a popular focal point of scholarly attention in the three hundred years since.

In this groundbreaking new book, Billy J. Stratton offers a critical examination of the narrative of Mary Rowlandson. Although it has long been thought that the book’s preface was written by the influential Puritan minister Increase Mather, Stratton’s research suggests that Mather was also deeply involved in the production of the narrative itself, which bears strong traces of a literary form that was already well established in Europe. As Stratton notes, the portrayal of Indian people as animalistic “savages” and of Rowlandson’s solace in Biblical exegesis served as a convenient alibi for the colonial aspirations of the Puritan leadership.

Stratton calls into question much that has been accepted as fact by scholars and historians over the last century, and re-centers the focus on the marginalized perspective of Native American people, including those whose land had been occupied by the Puritan settlers. In doing so, Stratton demands a careful reconsideration of the role that the captivity narrative—which was instrumental in shaping conceptions of “frontier warfare”—has played in the development of both American literary history and national identity.

Published by: University of Arizona Press


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pp. 1-1

Title Page, Copyright, Dedication

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pp. 2-7


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pp. vii-viii

List of Illustrations

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pp. ix-x

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pp. xi-xiv

In 1682, the captivity narrative of Mary Rowlandson, The Soveraignty and Goodness of God . . . , was published in four separate editions in both New England and London. In the three hundred and forty years since, the account has alternately been ignored and revived multiple times, ...

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pp. xv-xvi

I would like to offer my appreciation to all the friends and colleagues who provided encouragement and inspiration, read earlier drafts of this manuscript, and generously offered their feedback and suggestions as I grappled with the many difficult questions addressed throughout this work. ...

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pp. 1-16

In the western literary tradition, the story of the Jewish people and their escape from enslavement at the hands of the Egyptians, as recorded in the Bible, represents an early and particularly influential captivity narrative. The arduous journey endured by B’nei Yisrael, the Children of Israel as they fled Egypt ...

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1. “Like a company of sheep torn by wolves”: Transatlantic Influences on the Development of the Indian Captivity Narrative

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pp. 17-44

The literary form of the captivity narrative has operated as a vital circuit for transnational colonial discourse since its inception. During the Age of Discovery, accounts of captivity provided an indispensable means of connecting the European metropole to foreign lands in Asia and Africa and, later, the Americas and Australia. ...

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2. Exile, Deterritorialization, and Intertextuality: The Cartographic Impulse of Puritan Historiography

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pp. 45-66

The processes of dispossession and deterritorialization typify the historical experience of Native people of the Americas following European contact in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. As was demonstrated in the last chapter, however, the way these processes coalesce had as much to do with the deployment of texts as it did with armed conflict. ...

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3. “And I Only Am Escaped To Tell The News”: Witnessing History in the True Narrative of Mary Rowlandson’s Captivity

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pp. 67-94

Roy Harvey Pearce’s 1947 essay, “The Significances of the Captivity Narrative,” marks the first significant study of the Indian captivity narrative. Since then, scholars have employed a variety of critical approaches, from gender, cultural studies, and new historicism to more recent studies in the fields of phenomenology, ecocriticism, and even posthumanism.1 ...

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4. Fractured Histories, Captive Subjects: The Masque of Textual Effacement

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pp. 95-121

The traumatic events of King Philip’s War and its aftermath left an indelible impression on the Puritan body politic and nationalist colonial identity. As the proliferation of captivity narratives and historical texts in the years that followed illustrates, English conflict with Native nations and the French was widely seen ...

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5. Representing the Native in the Twenty-First Century: “A Strange Fish” Still?

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pp. 122-143

As Alexie’s words bear witness, the events that transpired during the brief period of time between the attack on Lancaster and captivation of Mary Rowlandson in February 1676, and the death of Metacomet in August of the same year, continue to have an influence on the development of American literary and historical discourses. ...

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pp. 144-150

We Indians dare never forget “history is written by the winners.” Some say this is a generalized adaptation of a quote that is attributed to Napoleon: “History is the version of past events that people have decided to agree upon.” This is no less true of literary history or the history of a scholarly tradition in academic discourse; ...


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pp. 151-176


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pp. 177-196


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pp. 197-204

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About the Author

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pp. 224-224

Billy J. Stratton earned a PhD in American Indian studies from the University of Arizona, with a specialization in Native American literature and critical theory. He serves as an assistant professor and as the director of Undergraduate Studies in the Department of English at the University of Denver, ...

E-ISBN-13: 9780816599035
E-ISBN-10: 0816599033
Print-ISBN-13: 9780816530281
Print-ISBN-10: 0816530289

Page Count: 223
Illustrations: 9 photos
Publication Year: 2013

OCLC Number: 855895886
MUSE Marc Record: Download for Buried in Shades of Night

Research Areas


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Subject Headings

  • Rowlandson, Mary White, approximately 1635-1711. Soveraignty & goodness of God.
  • Rowlandson, Mary White, approximately 1635-1711.
  • Indian captivities -- Massachusetts..
  • Indians of North America -- Massachusetts -- Biography.
  • Indians of North America -- Massachusetts -- History -- Colonial period, ca. 1600-1776.
  • King Philip's War, 1675-1676.
  • Indians in literature -- History and criticism.
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